Intelligent Design

(Peaceful Science) #1

Continuing the discussion from My ID Challenge:

The relevant posts are here:

To be very clear where I stand. I do not call them the Dishonesty Institute. I find that uncivil and unkind. I have relationships with people in the DI and the ID movement, and hope to maintain them. Moreover, I am thankful to them for dialoguing with me. Their attention certainly raised my profile.

This article to BioLogos was pretty entertaining too:

(Peaceful Science) #2

@deliberateresult I would love to hear your response.


Me too. I realize that the author of that article is not an evangelical Christian, but the Discovery Institute and the Christians who comprise most of the Board of Directors and staff do claim Christian worldviews and personal faith in Christ. So I find the fact that such blatant misrepresentations of the basic facts (which are easily verified in the published literature) are allowed to persist on their website a sobering reminder that the Institute is committed to propaganda in pursuit to a particular agenda----not an honest presentation of the facts.

If I found such a serious breach of ethics within seconds of perusing the list of articles, how many would I find if I tried to compile a complete catalog of pathological lying?

Please show me that I’m mistaken!

(Peaceful Science) #4

I encourage you to read VJ Torley’s responses too, and then consider listing a few of the biggest errors here from that long chain, so newcomers do not have to sift through everything.

(Peaceful Science) #5

Cornelius Hunter, Ann Gauger, and Jonathan West are all Christians. David Klinghoffer is actually a pretty nice guy. We get along (surprisingly), and he is Jewish.


My quotation about chimp-human divergence came from:

And here is the particular excerpt which I found astonishingly incorrect—if not downright dishonest:

I’m inviting comment on this shocking position. Can any Discovery Institute supporter explain how they could justify this level of misrepresentation? Even if it started as a statement from ignorance, how can it be allowed to remain on the website uncorrected?

Just as some of the bizarre claims of Henry Morris—and refusal to correct them—led me out of the Young Earth Creationist world of creation science, perhaps I should be thankful that is so reckless with their public displays of science ignorance (if not outright dishonesty.)


Three thoughts come to mind:

(1) My pastor during my childhood liked to repeat the old maxim: “Having an open mind can be a good thing—but not so open that your brains spill out and prove worthless.”

(2) Would I rather learn calculus from an “open minded” textbook or one that has been carefully edited and proofread?

(3) Is a university Department of Astronomy which has a fully endowed Chair of Astrology & the Astrological Arts superior by virtual of its “open-mindedness.” Likewise, a Discovery Institute which includes a wide-spectrum of “ID advocates” must surely face questions of exactly where to draw the line.

Whatever leeway they may grant their “associate scholars” or whatever the term, isn’t EvolutionNews supposed to be an official avenue for the communication of Discovery Institute positions and objectives to the general public? Does not the honesty and integrity of EvolutionNews thereby inevitably reflect upon the ethics and mission statement of the Discovery Institute? (Frankly, I think EvolutionNews has a long history of portraying the Discovery Institute as far more loony that it actually is. Of course, seeing how EvolutionNews actually is speaking for the DI, mine is probably an irrelevant and illogical observation.)


I am hoping that @dcscccc and @deliberateresult can shed light on why the Discovery Institute has not corrected the obviously erroneous statements about the Theory of Evolution and Common Descent not predicting the similarity between the human and chimpanzee genomes.

(Peaceful Science) #8

So, in fairness, I do not think we can expect @dcscccc and @deliberateresult to defend the DI. For what I can tell, @dcscccc is more YEC, and @deliberateresult is just a random lay person. How would they know why DI does all this? Rather, I is worth asking if they trust the ID movement to give them good science, and, if they do, how they respond to these problems.

@Eddie might have more specific information in this case, and I’d curious his take.

As for me, I will attempt an honest defense of them in a moment. I am not actually convinced that this is dishonesty. I think it something else.

(Peaceful Science) #9

This is my best honest attempt to defend the DI. I hope that they would agree with most or all of what I write.

First off, I think it is important to recognize that ENV is not run by scientists. John West is a political scientist, David Klinghoffer is a journalist I think, and Casey Luskin (who is no longer there) is a lawyer. I do not think that these guys are ever intentionally lying. Much more frequently they are just calling it like they see it, but they have such a different view of science than us, that it might seem like “confabulation.” I think the reality is different. They just see the world differently than us.

I think Ann Gauger fits in a different category. I think she is a genuinely honest person that is earnestly doing science as she sees fit. Moreover, she is actually a scientist, and has born MORE than her fair share of abuse for her efforts. Her, in particular, I have no interest in attacking. The only reason she was sucked into this is because she decided to dispute VJ Torley (a philosopher) on the science, and I did not want to leave VJ hanging.

One of the more revealing parts of the dialogue is how the VTG1 match to humans was handled. In Ann’s defense, the paper was not clear about the totality of data behind the pseudogene match, and it did not report the significance (which was about 10^-70). This argument started out with people arguing about “what other people said about the data,” so this was the significance of the match was initially in dispute. The data however entirely resolved that question, and Ann did eventually stop arguing that it wasn’t significant (though I think she stopped short of admitting she was wrong).

Any how, I think she was genuinely confused as to why the original authors didn’t report this significance, and said as much in her articles. The answer, I think, is that the authors of the original paper did not know there paper was going to be the subject of a debate about common descent. They just assumed it was true, and focused on the interesting science of the data. Now, we come by with our external debate, and wonder why they didn’t fully justify themselves.

Of course, that describes just about ALL of the primary scientific literature. In mainstream science, it is not even worth explaining the evidence for common descent any more, because it is so obviously true to most scientists. In the primary literature, therefore, the evidentiary case for common descent is actually understated.

Regardless, this is just another case of having wildly different views of the world, and the clash causing honest but severe misreading of the literature.

Now, why wasn’t this corrected on the ENV site?

First off, ENV has a policy of not retracting things. The best thing would be for them to publish a new article walking back mistakes. They of course did not do this.

Second, Cornelius Hunter DID in fact silently retract points that he was proven wrong on, with no explanation. That really angered me, and it is possible (likely?) that I reacted strongly to that. I perceived it as dishonesty. Perhaps I was unfair. Regardless, his whole point is that “there is absolutely no evidence for common descent” so it certainly was material to the debate why he retracted his points. Both VJ and I called him on this point:

Cornelius Hunter is honestly very hard for me to understand. My most generous reading of him is that he is honestly convinced of his position. I have my doubts, but I cannot peer into another’s heart and judge their motives. If I could, I would take back my public accusation that he was being dishonest. It certainly looked that way to me, but who knows.

Now, once again in defense of the ID movement, several prominent ID people did privately tell me that they thought the whole debate was absurd and were considering weighing in on my behalf. I emailed Behe, and he almost did. I do not think that the DI speaks on behalf of the whole ID movement, but this is supposed to be their function. It does not make a ton of sense to me.

So in the end, though I disagree with almost all the scientific claims the DI made in that chain, I do not necessarily know they are being dishonest. MOREOVER, VJ Torley is part of the ID movement too, and he did defend me and generally speaking (especially for a philosopher) did a phenomenal job representing the science.

I just wish more in the ID movement could be like Ann Gauger and VJ Torley.

(Peaceful Science) #10

@Eddie do you have any insight here? I hope you feel I was fair to them in this defense.


I believe that he also has a degree in geology, but is not working as a geologist.

(Peaceful Science) #12

So remembering back to the chimp-human divergence brings a smile to my face.

I think they actually thought they had me pinned to the wall. They had some quotes from a while ago saying that there was “debate” about how similar humans-chimps-rats-mice would be, and that many researchers were “surprised” by what they found. They took this as strong evidence that there was no prediction from common descent about the similarity. Once again, in their defense, I was very reticent to respond to them, and never fought back publicly on this point.

The reality of course is totally different. At times in the past there was debate about how similar all these species would be. Most of the time this debate was not rooted in math, but in the human, fallible instincts of scientists. Who cares that some of them were wrong? I certainly don’t.

When we say at that “evolution” predicted the similarities we see, we are not claiming that no scientist ever had a wrong intuition about what evolution would predict. Instead, we are saying that a careful rigorous (and mathematical) consideration of the data using near neutral theory predicted that similarities would follow a long list of specific patterns. This is exactly what the data shows.

Now, when Cornelius and ENV wrote things like:

I’m willing to say that was hyperbole rooted in misunderstandings of how science works and how scientists use vocabulary. They approach the primary literature more like lawyers looking for gotchas. I approach the question with the primary data. This is a very wide gulf of difference. Of course there will be irreconcilable differences as a result.


I pose the question because I’ve seen Discovery Institute defenders actively explain and defend such things on other fora. Obviously, few people can accurately speak for the Discovery Institute but plenty of people are willing to try.

Many simply refuse to admit the facts of the science. They stick to “the Theory of Evolution is not science so it is impossible for the theory to make predictions.”

Your “insider” perceptions fit closely with some of the social factors I saw within the Young Earth Creationist community. We as human beings are very complicated.

As to the staffing of the DI, anywhere one expects lawyers and journalists with little understanding of science trying to “help” the scholars do their think in “educating” the public, one is bound to have confusion and nonsense.

(Peaceful Science) #14

Well if @deliberateresult wants to try he is welcome to. I do not think it is fair for us to require it of him. Let’s see if he is willing to put his money where is mouth is. Often he seems to be avoiding real engagement with me (I don’t blame him; informed experts are hard to argue with). So I don’t expect him to take you up on your challenge.

The similarity is not lost on me. I don’t know if dishonesty is really the fairest most accurate description of the problem. I think it is more like an intricate alternate reality, with a whole different framework for understanding and interpreting evidence and the literature. I think they really believe what they are selling, and they look at us with the same sense of befuddlement that we look at them. Of course, they would say that our reality is a “false reality” and theirs is true. I suppose that is their right, and I am sure they believe that entirely.

The weirding thing that comes up, that I have a harder time understanding, is the claim that some make that they infact are using the same rules and evidence that we do in mainstream science. This seems almost obviously false. We are working from two entirely different realities, so of course we are using different rules and evidence. This is why most scientists consider ID unscientific. At the very least, it is nothing like mainstream science.


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(Peaceful Science) #17

I would also add that he too is a nice guy that is in no way intentional dishonest. Despite appearances I harbor no ill will towards them.

(George Brooks) #18


Very interesting! Can you name THREE other ID proponents who agree with Behe?


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(Chris Falter) #20

Thanks for the info, @Eddie. Sternberg has been widely quoted on YEC sites for his view (from the late 90s, I believe) that the cetacids (whales and dolphins) could not possibly have evolved from land mammals due to (1) the number of genetic changes required and (2) the insufficient amount of time available.

Today, any high school student with $20 to his or her name can sequence mitochondrial protein with BLAST to identify the closest living relatives of blue whales that still have four legs.

Note to home-schoolers: this cool lab has all the instructions you need!

Has Sternberg changed his mind about the evolution of cetacids? Has he published such an opinion where I can read it?